Last week (15th January) I was invited in to the old alma mater to give an interview for their health radio show (33:30): scary stuff as I had never been on radio before, but in the spirit of moving out of my comfort zone and trying out new things…. Anyway, the topic was on breaking and changing habits, as it is January and the time of year when we all look at what happened before and plan out what is to come: the old New Year’s Resolution time. I think that New Year’s Eve is ruined by the pressure to, firstly have an amazing feeling of hope and joy when ringing in the bells and secondly, to come up with some resolutions for the new year!.
We all know that bad habits are easily and quickly established but good habits are much more difficult to get going. Also, good habits are easily broken, which is so unfair! Changing and breaking habits is not easy, but all habits can be broken and changed; even habits that are well embedded from childhood. It requires us to be conscious of what we are doing, how we are thinking and to consciously choose to either continue the way we are or choose to be or do something different. It requires us to involve the higher parts of our brain around reasoning, rational thinking, questioning rather than reacting quickly and impulsively, which is the lower part of the brain. Ultimately this all comes down to conscious choice and a will to change.
Anyone can do this, at any time. It is really very straight forward; and maybe that puts people off because they think that if it is that simple, why doesn’t everyone do it and why didn’t I do it years ago – well therein lies the crux of the matter, why not, indeed?. When you feel yourself tempted into the old habit you want to change you can do this for yourself:
- Move yourself into being conscious of what you’re about to do or how you are thinking or feeling.
- Stop there and then, close your eyes if possible and wait until the feeling passes (the temptation, the urge to react, the thinking pattern)
- Then consciously and deliberately ask yourself if you really need or want to act, feel, react or think in this way. Sometimes the answer is yes, I do. Then that is the choice being made. Sometimes it is no, I want to change, stop, do something different. Then a break in the cycle occurs and a new path is opened up.
The secrets to changing a habit, are conscious choice and repetition. You need to take back the power to choose your own path, how you feel, think, act and behave: ultimately, how you live your life. For a new habit to become established and sustained or for a new habit to replace an old one, repetition is necessary, that’s how it becomes a natural way of being: a habit (habit being habitual, something you do, think, feel subconsciously). You could therefore:
- Write down how you feel at the time, how it affects you, what impact it is having on you.
- Make a note whenever you make a better choice and record how this feels.
- Appreciate fully and celebrate your good choices; be thankful for them and forgive yourself when you fall back into old habits, and give yourself permission to move forward again.
- Gather as much support as possible around you from positive people who like you and are on your side: friends, family, colleagues.
Many people give up their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January (next week in fact) because they are not really motivated, their goals may not be specific enough, and they have no action plan in place for achieving them. Research from the USA for 2014 resolutions has shown that only 8% of people keep their resolutions by the end of the year! The chances of raising the success rate would be very high if people took the time to explore the goal fully and gather lots of support around themselves to help them put any change in place. Apparently the top 3 resolutions for 2014 were:
No 1 – Lose Weight. No 2 – Get Organised, No 3 – Spend Less, Save More
All classically very vague!
During my coaching partnership with clients both in groups and with individuals, I use a number of tools to help support people when they set resolutions and goals for themselves. In the next two blog posts I will show you how to use these two models for yourself and with other people, to help support you into 2015.
For the record, one of my new goals for 2015 is to teach each member of my family to cook a full dinner for the whole family. There are five of us, so taking me out of it (obviously!), that means teaching a 50 year old man (!), a teenage son, an on-the-cusp of teenage daughter and a 10 year old son, how to cook a dinner for the 5 of us, serve it up and eat it (hopefully with enjoyment)! I will let you know how it goes….
Happy New Year and looking forward to 2015.
Anne Marie Crowley, based in Cork, is a free-lance Coach and Trainer in the field of behavioural change for individuals and business. Anne Marie is the founder of Crowley Personal and Business Change.